Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee, Associate Editor, the Victorian Web. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images for larger pictures.]
Left: Albert Memorial, Manchester, seen from the steps of the Town Hall. Designed by Thomas Worthington (1826-1909), for the statue by Matthew Noble (c.1817-1876). Stone carving by T. R. and E. Williams, who also carved the lovely figures on the former Reform Club in the city centre. A neo-Gothic sandstone shrine-like structure, intended to shelter and enhance a marble statue of Prince Albert in his garter robes, standing on a pedestal above five wide surrounding steps. Officially unveiled January 1867. Albert Square, Manchester. Inscriptions round the base: IN GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PRIVATE AND PUBLIC VIRTUES / ALBERT, PRINCE OF SAXE COBURG AND GOTHA, CONSORT OF HER MAJESTY, QUEEN VICTORIA / ERECTED BY THE INHABITANTS OF MANCHESTER A.D. 1866 / THIS STATUE WAS PRESENTED TO HIS FELLOW-CITIZENS BY THOMAS GOADSBY, MAYOR OF MANCHESTER 1861-2. Right: Closer view of the statue of Prince Albert. Completed in 1866 (see Wyke 14). Note the inscription on the pedestal, reading simply, ALBERT.
Worthington's main feature is the steep, elaborate canopy, influenced by the thirteenth-century Santa Maria della Spina in Italy and St Mary, Nantwich in Cheshire (see Hartwell 144). But Anthony J. Pass reminds us that "[d]espite their undoubtedly novel aspects, both Scott's High Victorian altar tabernacle and Worthington's Italian Gothic canopy owed something in form to the strange edifice which shelters — and quite overwhelms — the statue of Sir Walter Scott in Princes Street, Edinburgh" (45).
Left:. On the large gables are openwork roundels with star motifs, reminiscent of rose-windows, with rich carving too over the canopied statuettes at each corner, and an octagonal grey-banded spire with crocketing towards the top. Note the angels of the resurrection blowing their trumpets Although the monument was restored in 1977, the angel on the right seems to have lost its trumpet, and much of the stone has greened over again, interfering with the elegant approach to polychromy. Right: .
Two views of the statue. Left:. The statue is best seen from ground level, against the sky rather than the buildings on the other side of the Square. Right: . Despite the busy urban context, the white marble statue can still be seen quite clearly, but the architectural element of the memorial is much more prominent from this particular angle. The heads in the medallions are those of Michelangelo, Wren, Inigo Jones, Raphael, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Goethe, Schiller, Milton, Shakespeare, Tasso and Dante, while the small figures between the shafts above represent Art, Commerce, Science and Agriculture, with subordinate figures representing: (below Art), Music, Sculpture, Painting and Architecture; (below Science), Astronomy, Mechanics, Chemistry and Geometry; (below Agriculture), Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter; and (below Commerce), Europe, Asia, Africa and America (see Wyke 11). All these were intended to reflect Prince Albert's wide range of interests. It is hard to appreciate them from a distance, though: much would be gained in the Albert Memorial in London by placing allegorical groups lower down, with helpful inscriptions.
Right:. Marble and stonework blend, making this the least satisfactory view; the Town Hall was, of course, not built when the memorial was designed and installed. Left: . Hartwell writes, "The armorial bearings of the Prince Consort feature prominently" (144): Albert's coat of arms is shown on the left here (cf. Stewart, facing p. 132). This features heraldry familiar from the Royal Standard — the three English lions, an Irish harp, and so on. The heraldic devices on the panel, on the other hand, come from the coat of arms of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (see "Coat of Arms"), each device surmounting a knight's helmet. This is all rather more interesting than the statue itself. As Benedict Read says, "[t]he architectural element here is substantial, and the elaborate programme of decorative carving [...] relieves the sculptural element of any narrative necessity" (153).
The monument as a whole is less refined and richly complex than its London counterpart, on which, after all, not only Sir George Gilbert Scott but a whole team of famous sculptors was employed, and which also benefits considerably from Francis Skidmore's exquisite metalwork. By necessity, sited in and bounded by a public square, Worthington's memorial also lacks the expansiveness of the London work, with its beautiful setting in Kensington Gardens. But such considerations should not detract from the dignity and intricacy of Worthington's design, which was much admired at the time (see Wyke 14), and does seem to some extent prototypical in general concept.
"Coat of Arms of Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha." Wikimedia Commons. Web. 19 March 2012.
Hartwell, Clare. Manchester. Pevsner Architectural Guides. London: Penguin, 2001. Print.
"Manchester Artists & Architects." Papillon Graphics Virtual Encyclopaedia of Greater Manchester. Web. 18 Match 2012.
Stewart, Jules. Albert: A Life. London & New York: I. B. Taurus, 2012. Print.
Wyke, Terry, with Harry Cocks. Sculpture of Greater Manchester. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2004. Print.
Last modified 25 March 2012